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Thomas J. Norton

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Apr 26, 2011 2 comments
Price: $2,199 At A Glance: Image pops with room lights on • Minimizes room reflections with lights off • Fixed frame—no retractable version

Lighten Up

Many of us will tolerate a projection system that requires a totally darkened room for movie watching. But when other family matters make this impossible, or when your buddies come over on a Sunday afternoon for the big game, how many of us are willing to totally blacken the room and leave everyone to stumble around in the dark?

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Apr 25, 2011 1 comments
Getting the most out of your big-screen experience.

When it comes to setting up a great video projection system in your home theater, the screen is nearly as important as the projector. A white wall or sheet simply won’t do, except in a pinch as a temporary stopgap. There’s no substitute for the real thing.

But choosing the right real thing requires research, together with examination of your individual needs. How tightly can you control the room lighting? How big do you want the image to be? What shape screen do you want—that is, what aspect ratio—and do you want a screen that can mask off the unused portions when the source is a different aspect? Can the screen have a fixed frame, or do you want it to be retractable? How much gain should the screen have? Which screen will best match your projector? And last but not least, how will 3D affect all of these other considerations?

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Apr 18, 2011 0 comments
Putting the theater in home theater.

It wasn’t so long ago—less than 10 years, in fact—that video projection in the home meant a bulky CRT projector that often weighed 200-plus pounds and took hours to set up. It used three separate CRTs, one each for red, green, and blue, which had to be precisely converged and focused on site. Once the setup was complete, you couldn’t move the projector without risking a need to repeat the entire operation. The CRTs also tended to drift, so periodic reconvergence was needed, either by the dealer or by a tech-savvy owner. It was complicated and expensive. Once you threw the cost of the then-expensive video scalers (needed by the day’s standard-definition sources) into the mix, the proposition could easily run into six-figure prices. But the best of these CRT setups were truly amazing—even in standard definition.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Mar 22, 2011 0 comments
Price: $6,999 At A Glance: Refined, engaging picture • Compromised LED dynamic edge lighting • 3D resolution not full HD (at press time)

Going Upscale With 3D

Unless you’re a regular reader and recall our review of the Lucidium NVU55FX5LS HDTV (Home Theater, April 2010), you may not have heard of NuVision. The company keeps a relatively low profile in an attempt to build a reputation as a connoisseur brand. It sells primarily through custom installation channels, and all of its products come with a two-year warranty and a two-day on-site, nationwide service program.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Mar 16, 2011 2 comments
Price: $2,100 (3D glasses: $150/pair) At A Glance: THX certified for 2D • Accurate color and superb resolution • Near reference-level blacks and shadow detail

Deep Impact

Plasmas have gotten a bum rap in the market for all sorts of nutty reasons. They break when shaken? No, not unless you’re talking about dropping them off the delivery truck, or them falling off the wall in an 8.0 trembler. In either case, you can kiss any flat-panel set goodbye. They leak plasma gas and need to be recharged frequently? A big-box retailer reportedly started this rumor several years ago, apparently in an effort to sell a special power conditioner that was said to eliminate the need for regular plasma transfusions.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Mar 10, 2011 0 comments
Panasonic's name may evoke sound, but its reputation is built on video. Nevertheless, the company does produce audio products, though its U.S. offerings in that space differ from those of many Asian manufacturers. It has never been a major player here in AV receivers or stand-alone speaker systems, but instead puts most of its efforts into home theaters in a box (HTiBs), compact one-piece stereo systems, and related all-in-one packages. Panasonic's new 2011 introductions in these categories include a single sound bar (the fully-powered, $400 SC-HTB520, which includes a wireless subwoofer), four compact stereo systems, and three new Blu-ray HTiBs with 3D capability. Four new stand-alone Blu-ray players were also launched.
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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Mar 09, 2011 0 comments
For its 2011 lineup of AV receivers, Pioneer has gone Apple in a big way. The four new models, introduced at a press event in San Francisco, range in price from $249 for the VSX-521 to $549 for the top-of-the-line VSX-1021.

To various degrees, depending on model, the receivers incorporate a high level of compatibility with iDevices from Apple, including iPhone and iPad, with no external dock required. All four feature at least 110 watts per channel (120W per in the VSX-1021, all measured at 1kHz and 8Ω) using traditional class-AB amplification. The two lower end models sport 110W x 5 and the top two are equipped to drive 7 channels. Among their features are compatibility with today's most widely used audio formats (including Dolby Pro Logic IIz's height-channel option), 3D pass-through via multiple HDMI 1.4 inputs, and Pioneer's proprietary MCACC room calibration. All of the new units are Bluetooth-ready (with the addition of an optional adapter).

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Mar 02, 2011 0 comments
Price: $1,800 (3D glasses: $130/pair) At A Glance: THX 3D certified • Superb color and resolution • Poor black level

THX Goes 3D

I was wandering through the Magnolia section of my local Best Buy the other day when I struck up a conversation with a visitor from Oregon. She had recently bought a 42-inch LCD set. I asked her why she didn’t consider a plasma. She thought for a moment, and the first thing that popped into her head was that someone had told her that plasmas could break if you shake them. A vision of our Sacramento Governator jiggling a 70-pound plasma like a pair of maracas as he bossa-novas down the capitol steps for the last time quickly passed. I assumed she meant a plasma could break if you bump it.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Mar 01, 2011 0 comments
Actually, I do have bananas. A whole bunch of them, in fact. Not the edible variety, but rather banana plugs, those handy little devices for connecting your speakers to you’re A/V receiver or amplifier(s).
Thomas J. Norton Posted: Feb 23, 2011 0 comments
Price: $1,500 At A Glance: Crisp, vivid imagery • Superb audio playback • Limited features

Back to Basics

The fundamental purpose of an optical digital disc player is to play back optical digital discs. While that may be self-evidently redundant, there’s a wide selection of players on the market that offer a numbing range of additional, gee-whiz features. These include such things as SACD and DVD-Audio playback, streaming and downloading of movies and other Internet content (sometimes wirelessly), and of course, today’s top banana, 3D.

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